European Union

The European Union EU


The beginning

On the 1st January 1973 the UK joined the European Economical Union (EEC). So a new source of law came into being - European Law. Since then it has had an increasing impact upon the legal system especially on the Doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. This meant that:

  • Parliament is the supreme law making body, which can make or unmake any law.
  • Parliament cannot bind its succesors.
  • The courts cannot question an Act of Parliament.

For the UK to join the community they had to sign the treaty of Rome and give the statutory force by passing the European Communities Act 1972.

The long term goal was political unity in western Europe. To a certain extent this has been further achieved by the single Act 1986.

Since 1988 there has also existed a court of first instance, which was created to relieve the ECJ of some of its heavy workload. This court hears staff cases and complex cases in the field of competition law.

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The institutions of the European Union

The council of ministers

  • is comprised of representatives from each government of each state. It represents the interests of individual member states and doesn't have permanent membershi
  • Twice a year the government meet in the European Council to discuss broad matters of policy. This body is the principle decision making institution of the unio
  • Voting is on weighted basis with each country having a number of votes roughly in proportion to its population.
  • Member of States also have rights to veto in certain circumstances where they consider the proposal to be a 'very important interest' of their country.
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The institutions of the European Union

The Commission

  • Is comprised of 27 commissioners who are supposed to act independently of their national origin and in the interst of the EU. This is meant to act as a balance against the council of ministers whose members represent National interests.
  • Primary function is to propose policy and initiate legislation for the council's consideration.
  • The commission is also the 'Guardian' of the treaties and makes sure all members of the states are following EU law.
  • If a member of state fails to implement EU law within their country the commissioner will refer it to the European court of justice.
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The institutions of the European Union

The Parliament

  • This consists of directly elected members for each of the 27 member states.
  • It's main function is to discuss proposals put forward by the commission but has no direct law making power.
  • Within the parliament member do not operate in national groups but form political groups.
  • The main criticism i that this body ha no real power even though the Single European Act 1986 did enhance its position.
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The institutions of the European Union

The European Court of Justice

  • This body supervises the uniform application of EU law throughout the member of states and in doing so can create case law.
  • It has two primary functions - judicial and preliminary rulings.
  • The court sits in Luxembourg and has 27 judges ( one from each state ) appointed for a period of 6 years.
  • The court is assisted by 8 Advocates general who produce opinions on the case assigned to them.
  • They are not binding but are followed by the court.
  • The ECJ is not bound by it's own previous decisisons.
  • ECJ was given its power by Article 234 of treaty of Rome to achieve harmonisation in Europe.
  • ECj enforces community laws that member states have either not implemented at all or implemented incorrectly.
  • When member states read and give effect to EU law it may need from the ECJ called a preliminary ruling.
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The law of the EU


  • Treaties is a primary source of international law. They lay down the general aims of the union and create rights and obligations.
  • Treaties are the highest form of community law because they become law in a member of state automatically without the need of further action on behalf of the domestic government.
  • Treaties have direct effect if it is unconditional, clear and precise and allows no discretion on implementation.
  • However treaties which are statements of intent or policy required detailed legislation by member state before they can be enforced.
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The law of the EU


  • Act 249 gives the EU the power to issue regulations. 'Regulations are binding in every respect and directly applicable in each member state' this means that they are automatically law.
  • They are used to introduce major changes in law to member states. They are binding and take priority over that member states domestic law.
  • Regulations have direct effect this means that any citizen of any member state can enforce the law as stated EU in their own domestic courts without the need for any further legislation to be passed in the member state.
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The law of the EU


  • Dicisions of the union are issued under Act 249 and it doesn't refer to the decisions of the European Court of Justice.
  • These can either be addressed to the member state or to an individual.
  • Decisions are binding is entirely upon those to whom they are addressed.
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The law of the EU


  • Act 249 of the treaty of Rome gives the EU the power to issue directives. Member of state must pass domestic legislation to achieve the aim of the directive within a certain time frame.
  • The UK is increasingly lazy when passing legislations. Directives are the main way the union achieves the harmonisation of laws between member states. They can be about anything from health and safety to equal rights.
  • There are three main ways of implementing directives:
  • By statutory instrument, terms in consumer contracts regulations 1994 and other law making methods such as consumer protection act 1987.
  • If the directive is granting rights to individuals and the wording is clear, it can become directly enforceable even if the member state doesn't legislate within the time frame or implement the legislation in a defective way. The idea is that citizens don't miss out on harmonized rights because the domestic government is incompetent. They can only enforce these rights against the state.
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The law of the EU

Directives continued

  • Veritical direct effect of directives - vertical effect means that the citizen can bring an action against an 'arm of state' the directive gets issued - state fails to implement within the givern time frame - the claim is against an 'arm of state' - individual can rely on the directive.
  • Horizontal directives - Directives get issued - state fails to implement within the give time frame - the claim is not against the 'arm of state' - individual cannot rely on the directive.
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Claire thomas


yaaay, thank you **



Really helpful notes, thanks!

I couldn't print them off, if you have this problem right click on the link and select open with new tab ( Probably just my laptop though )

Great notes! Thanks x

Sidorela Peraj


really good notes :) thank you they helped a lot

Smith E


A popular resource and it is easy to see why. The material is clearly written and accurate. The institutions of the EU are easy to muddle and this resource helps to avoid that.



These are kind of inaccurate

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